Let’s talk FANTASY – Fantasy Maps

Fantasy maps are another element of high fantasy that I simply adore.

If you’re a geek like me, you’d probably spend several good seconds (or minutes) admiring the map at the start of many high fantasy novels. I just love the illustrations on these maps.

Here are just some of them:

Edil Amarandh map
Map of Edil-Amarandh, from Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor
Grisha map
Map of the Grisha world, from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)
Middle Earth
Map of Middle Earth, from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

 

They are so pleasing to the eyes!! These maps spark so much wanderlust in me and I just want to jump into these worlds physically, if only I could.

Truth is, I don’t even refer to them while reading because I’m too into the story to bother, but I think these maps just add so much more character into the world and makes it even more real.

I love how Fantasy writers put in so much effort into details like these – where the mountains and hills are, the size of each place, the distance between each place – and when they make all these details matter by linking it to the background or history of their world. It’s another reason why I respect fantasy writers so much; they dedicate so many years to create an original fantasy world!

Do you have a favourite fantasy world map? Share it with us in the comments below!

Let’s talk FANTASY: my introductory into high fantasy

Hellooo! Today I want to tell you guys about my very first high fantasy read.

I was 11 or 12 (or maybe younger?) when I was first introduced to The Gift (or The Naming) by Alison Croggon.

Back then, I had an English tutor whom I often bonded with over books, and the tuition centre had a mini library which we would all visit at the end of every lesson. It was my tutor who recommended The Gift to me; without her I would probably never have endeavoured to read such a thick book back then. (Side note: this tutor was also the one who first introduced Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride to me… if not for her, I wouldn’t have discovered so many of my favourite books!)

Needless to say, I loved The Gift and every book in the Books of Pellinor series. But it wasn’t until 3 or 4 years later when something inexplicable compelled me to read the series again, and this time with better linguistic ability I found I appreciated the book even more. With her beautiful writing and detailed appendices, Croggon created a world so real, to the point where I actually believed that the events were true and that magic used to exist. (Sadly, that was short-lived because I did intensive research on Google and found out that it was foolish thinking on my part… haha.)

Nevertheless, I fell in love with the art of creating a fantasy world that clearly doesn’t exist, but feels so real that it could be plausible. The wit, ingenuity and planning needed to create such a world eluded me and I so admired the authors who were able to do so. And that’s how I came to love and appreciate high fantasy. Now, I have a long list of other reasons why I love high fantasy, but this was the very first reason that set everything in motion.

Although I’m aware there are many other high fantasy books with more original plotlines and more unique magic systems than Croggon’s books, the Books of Pellinor will always, always be my number one high fantasy series and will always retain its special place in my heart, much like a first love.

Calling out to all book lovers!

One of my greatest desire as an avid reader is to connect with other like-minded readers to discuss books, recommend books, buddy read, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t have many (or any) friends who like reading as much as I do… hence my own book community is basically, well, non-existent.

So I’ve given it some thought and decided I will likely turn this blog into one for me to keep track of my own reading and also to post reviews, book tags etc because I want to get closer to the online reading community..

I also want to do some justice to the authors who have written my favourite books by recommending them to more people. That’s the slightest thing I can do for them, considering the HUGE favour they have done me by writing amazing books and creating amazing worlds I can delve into.

I haven’t hashed it all out yet, but I’m probably just going to start small by aiming for at least one post a week. It could be a review, a book tag,or maybe a Top 5 thing… then I’ll gradually start increasing the number of posts. Occasionally, I may also post random things like book quotes and other book-related paraphernalia.

So perhaps I’ll start here with a self-introduction about what kind of reader I am.

  • Genres I love: Fantasy, all the time (when I want to escape reality). Romance, most of the time. Historical/Cultural, at times (when I’m ready for more serious reads). In particular, I looooove books that make me teary-eyed. I feel a lot in books.
  • I like to read books in a single sitting, if possible.
  • I love watching BookTube! When I’m bored I’ll just watch a random BookTube video, doesn’t even matter what the video is about, it’s bound to be interesting!
  • Collector of quotes.
  • Still dreaming of having a whole wall of books…
  • To me, books are precious babies that should never be mishandled.

Hmm, that’s about it for now. Please do comment and feel free to share what kind of reader you are! I’d love to reach out to more readers. 🙂

 

What Would You Do?

I discovered this TV show about a year ago and since then it has altered my views on the world and the people of this world. Back then I was addicted to watching YouTube videos on social experiments and so it was by chance that I found out about it. Immediately I began binge-watching all the What Would You Do? episodes I could find on YouTube.

What Would You Do? is (I think) a pretty popular TV show in America on ABC News. (I’m assuming it’s popular because most people who were featured in it happened to know about it, but I’m not sure since I’m no American anyway). So basically what they do is that they choose a location and a scenario, then plant some actors and hidden cameras in the chosen place and see how people react to the scenario, whether they choose to get involved and to what degree they get involved, or maybe if they just opt to stay silent or walk away. Sometimes they bring in social psychologists or other professionals to analyse the people’s behaviour as well.

They have a mountain of scenarios, some unimaginable, others unfortunately common in everyday lives, but most are painfully relatable. For example, teenagers verbally abusing a fat lady at the beach. A mom forcing her hungry child to go on a diet with just salad for lunch. A veteran unable to pay for his groceries at the supermarket. A rude customer abusing an employee with Down syndrome. A guy/girl spiking his/her girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s drink. Teens pressuring friend to take steroids. A woman taking advantage of a blind man. Placed in these situations, what would you do?

Sad to say, I have no idea. I wish I could say that Of course, if I were to witness any of these situations, I’d definitely be the one stepping up and getting involved. I wish I could say with certainty that I would be one of those good samaritans who’d willingly take out their cash to pay for someone else’s groceries, or those outspoken women who valiantly prevented the abuse of another in the face of someone bigger and stronger than them. But when I think about it, each time I was given the opportunity to do something for a stranger, simple or not, I had always hesitated. And each time, either someone else beat me to it, or I just decided not to do it after all.

So it is with admiration and awe that I watch these videos. I marvel at how these people can be so:

1. eloquent

2. compassionate

(see 2:03-3:03, 6:00-7:25 and 8:33 onwards)

(see 8:03 onwards)

3. brave

(see 4:14-6:00 compared to 13:04-14:04)

 

Occasionally the people who intervene end up sharing their own stories – that they’ve been through similar experiences, or know people who have been through them. Isn’t it amazing how all these people, people we merely spare a glance for when we pass them by along the pavements, can turn out to be so big-hearted (or sometimes so cold-hearted), from such diverse backgrounds, and with such deep, sometimes painful history? Too often we take one look at someone – how they dress, how they walk, how they talk, who they’re with – and think we have them figured out. But we don’t. They might be someone deeply passionate about racial equality. Someone who has struggled with accepting a gay son. Someone who went through teenage pregnancy alone. Someone who has spent majority of her life feeling unconfident about her body. Someone whose brother smoked and died from lung cancer. Someone whose child was abducted. And they all have something meaningful to share – their lessons learnt.

We never know all these until we start talking about the true issues concerning our society today, which is what I believe this show does. Watching this, I’ve realised one thing: Human beings have so much power over each other, and we don’t even realise it. Someone else’s opinion can drastically change the way you see yourself. Someone else’s shared experience can give you immeasurable comfort. Someone else’s pitiable plight could upset you and evoke strong emotions. Someone else’s manipulation and their words. Or their empathy and their hug.

It’s such a simple concept, yet one that is hard to grasp, and one that is not often utilised well. Many who understand it use them in bad ways: faking handicap to beg for more money, insulting another’s looks, putting others down. Of course there are also the good: compliments, sharing experiences, comforting touches, stepping up for someone else. But more often than not, a single insult burns more than a load of compliments can heal.

So I guess that is all the more reason to give out the ‘good’ less sparingly, isn’t it?

I hope so. And I genuinely hope people, including myself, will have more courage for the good.

 

 

More:

(same video but watch from 10:21-11:28)

(see 5:06 onwards)

Why do people procrastinate?

I tend to place unreasoned sadness, aimlessness and unproductivity on the fact that my period is nearing.

But a quick check on Clue, the app I use to track my period, tells me that no, the curse of every female-who-has-reached-puberty-but-not-yet-menopause is not nearing, and in fact isn’t due for another two weeks or so.

I have no choice but to succumb to the truth – that I am feeling aimless because I am, indeed, at this point in my life, aimless. I have 9 months to kill before my first day of university starts. Sure, I have things to do, like university applications, scholarship applications, personal projects I gave myself (learn cooking, learn a dialect, learn graphic designing, volunteer, find a job, read, write) and tasked to me by my parents (plan for a holiday, design this room in our house). But these aren’t really things I feel like doing right now, considering I have been slaving myself off to education for the past few months (or more precisely my entire life?), yet at the same time these are things I have always wanted more time to do.

So why am I procrastinating?

Why do people procrastinate?

I have often asked myself this. Why do I procrastinate on everything, even things I’m supposedly passionate about? Why is it that everything becomes like a chore when you actually get to doing it? Why do we feel like we have so much time in the world to do the things we want and need to do? What creates this illusion? Hadn’t we started measuring time in seconds, minutes, and hours, because there wasn’t enough time to go around such that we had to count every second, minute, and hour? And why do we rush? What was the purpose of life if we didn’t enjoy it? Why do we turn life into a constant struggle, why do we create expectations, standards, obligations when there were none?

By now you can see that my thoughts often run off course. In fact, it jumps. I wonder about one thing and end up with another question about something entirely different. Sometimes I wonder if I should even post these because they’re often not about anything at all. Which brings me back to aimlessness. Which perhaps answers my final question after all. We create all these standards because we want to have an end goal in mind. We needed an aim and purpose in life. Then one thing led to another (need for purpose –> chase power & fame ->  conflicts & selfishness & calculativeness) and here we are today. In some ways an over-developed, refined and civilised world, in others still a malnourished, desperate and unbearably disparate one.

Why do I procrastinate? Perhaps because I have the privilege to do so. I have the privilege of having things to do – access to wifi and heaps of gadgets to kill my time – when I don’t want to do anything else. I have the privilege to waste my time away, because I live in an ivory tower secluded from the slums, far from the homeless and the unsheltered. I have the privilege of having food, water, education, healthcare handed to me on a silver platter, complete with a full set of cutlery. I don’t have to fight for material to stay alive, nor to receive love. I barely have to teach myself anything.

Then the guilt starts flooding in and drowns me out and now I know I have to fight to stay afloat. If not for myself, then for others.

How cruel that on a single planet, some are dying from droughts, others from flood.

Building confidence

There is nothing I admire more in a person than confidence. The kind of confidence that isn’t too overpowering and show-off, but just the kind which allows you to speak well in front of others, to be unafraid to make mistakes, to love yourself enough to tell people about both the good and bad sides of yourself.

The kind of confidence I have is faux confidence. I only gain the confidence because of external factors; it doesn’t come from myself. I only gain that confidence when people tell me that I can do something well and acknowledge that I am good. It is the kind of confidence that makes me only want to do the things I am good in, and avoid all things I am bad at. Because I want to keep remaining good in other people’s eyes, I avoid it for fear that they would change their minds, and consequently mine.

Hence it is also the kind of confidence which prevents me from being who I am and being who I could be. I am too afraid to embrace my weaknesses and show them to the world. I’ll just be really honest here and say that I seem to be a very good student in many peoples’ eyes. To my classmates and schoolmates, and to my teachers. Friends and friends of friends are always asking me how I am doing so well in school, and teachers tell me that I have so much more potential and that I should sign up for additional programmes, take up more responsibilities, things like that. But the truth is that I don’t always do that well, that I hide my struggles, and the only reason why I work hard to do well is because I don’t want people to suddenly realise that I’m not as smart as they made me out to be. And the reason why I never ever take my teachers’ offers of signing up for courses and competitions is because I’m afraid that they’d realise I’m really not good enough for such endeavours. But this is a vicious cycle because then I’d never ever get the chance to stretch myself, to just try things out and learn from experience. Unlike what some of my teachers say, it’s not that I’m complacent, or that I don’t care about these rare opportunities presented to me by others. It’s that I’m afraid. That’s how scary fear is. It stops you from truly becoming better.

Someone once asked me why I seemed so unconfident and uncertain even though I did well consistently in school. My answer was, “because that’s the only thing I’m good at”. I said that because it always felt like whenever people thought of me, the only word they used to describe me was “smart”. While it may be a good adjective to be described as, it really really sucked that that was the only trait that people knew me by. I wanted to be other things, like being kind-hearted, understanding, compassionate, generous, comfortable to be with, driven, strong-willed… Words that said something about my character, not just a word like “smart” which seemed so superficial to me. And yet because I was somewhat influenced into thinking that being smart was my only strength, I stubbornly stuck to it, unwilling to let go of the confidence people had in me in that single aspect. I was afraid that one mistake would erase all the positive impressions that people had of me. I was afraid that when people thought of me, they would only remember how I embarrassed myself when I fumbled as I spoke in front of my classmates, when I couldn’t think under everyone’s stare and gave unintellectual replies that the teacher criticised. I was afraid that once I made a mistake, that trait people thought I had would disappear, and suddenly I am nothing, not even just “smart”.

But I realise that sometimes it is the mistakes you make and how you deal with them that brings out your character. And I realise that making mistakes and being imperfect is human, that it makes people less intimidated by you and want to get to know you more beneath what you choose to show to the world. And that maybe I need to fall and rise again in order to gain confidence in myself, and rediscover that I am capable of doing things I thought I couldn’t.

I’m still working on being less afraid to make mistakes, so it may not be very fitting for me to say this, but I just want everyone to realise it with me. We are not alone in our fears. Everyone, no matter how great they may seem to you on the outside, has their own fair share of fears and insecurities. I truly believe that genuine confidence and fear are not mutually exclusive; that we can have both at the same time. Because by choosing to face the fear head on, we can build confidence. Along the way, even more fears may develop, but that is precisely how we can grow and develop our character and build resilience.

And also remember…  never ever, ever, laugh at someone or gossip about someone because they are bad at something. We always get back what we give. Especially the bad things.

 

Fear is fiction; black & bold it.